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Archive for July 21st, 2009

Mangalitsa Belly (五花腩), part I

About two months ago after hearing Ajit twit about his Mangalitsa dinner at Monsoon, I was determined to find me some this stuff. Mangalitsa is a breed of pig bred for it’s fat traditionally for lard production rather than for it’s meat. Immediately I thought of the pork belly.

Pork Belly (五花腩) has always been a staple in Chinese cuisine. So important that the Chinese government setup a Strategic Pork Reserve to mitigate chances of a national riot due to pork shortage. The name literally means five flower belly, where the word “flower (花)” is often used to describe the pattern on a piece of marble. Five refers to the distinct layer of meat and fat on a belly cut.

Wooly pig is the primary breeder in the US. I contacted Heath to see if they have any retail outlets in New York. He got me in touch with Michael Clampffer from Mosefund farm, who agree to let me participate in the upcoming pig share. The farm had a few pig that’s due in mid July. You speak for the part that you want when the pig is still young, and when the pig grows up you share it with other people. I spoke for half a belly and the jowl. This is pork belly future in its true form.

My cut arrived in mid July. I decided to braised the half of my belly cut in soy sauce and do a confit for the other half. Pork Belly braised in sweet soy sauce is one of the most common way Chinese enjoyed pork belly. It’s long and slow cooking time breaks down some of the fat and makes the meat off the bone tender. I cut the pork belly in 3 inch by 3 inch cube and marinated them overnight in the following sauce. This will give it a nice brown color

  • 4 table spoon dark soy sauce
  • 4 table spoon water
  • 2 table spoon grated ginger
  • 1 table spoon raw sugar

Soy sauce taste test.I taste tested two different type of soy sauce and decided to used both. Soy sauce is brewed from fermented soy beans using bacteria and aged in wooden barrels. The Chinese one on the right has a deeper and more earthy taste, less salty but with a slight aftertaste possibly from preservatives. The Japanese one to the left has a floral note, tasted much brighter but with a higher salt content. Because salt content varies a great deal, alway try before you use it for braising.

soy sauce and spices

Preheat oven to 175F. Toast the star anise and sichuan peppercorn in a casted iron cassarole. Add the rest of ingredients to the cassarole. Add the prok belly pieces in. Add water until the bellies are covered all the way by the braising liquid. Take out the belly pieces and brin the liquid to a boil. let the braising liquid cool to 180F. Place the belly in the cassarole with skin facing down. Weight down with pie weight if you have them. Place in oven for 24 hours. Check periodically to make sure braising liquid is between 160 to 170F. Make sure the liquid never falls below 140 at any time.

After 24 hours you should see a layer of fat floating on top. Save them for stir fry or as topping for steamed rice or noodle with dried shrimp eggs. Remove the belly carefully from the pot. By now they should have shrunk quite a bit. Leave the belly to cool in the fridge overnight.

just had a piece of braised pork belly that beats foie gras. When ready to serve, I sliced them in half inch slices and put them in microwave for 10 seconds. If you have reserve about the microwave, you can use a heat lamp as well. But since it contains little water, this is the best way to warm it up without disturbing much of it’s texture. At this point you should see the fat just starting to ooze out of the warm belly slice, giving it a nice shiny glaze. I served it with a bowl of steamed rice and Chinese mustard green. I slowly took a bite into the piece. At first the soft and gelatinous skin give a tiny bit of resistance, before letting my teeth penetrate throught to the warm soft flesh. The fat is silky smooth, with a much finer and delicate texture than any belly fat I have had. Just when I was savoring it the piece melts in my mouth into this intense liquid that’s every bit as good as seared foie gras but without any of the organ after taste. It was havenly. When I finished the belly pieces the rice is coated with the same flavor that reminds me of the two tiny pieces of heaven I just had.

2 comments July 21st, 2009


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